What do you, Jordan, Pelé and Bustamante have in common?

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Murilo Bustamante throws punches to win his UFC belt. Susumu Nagao/GRACIEMAG archives

By Marcelo Dunlop

In a live interview with @Graciemagoficial in April, Murilo Bustamante, the MMA and BJJ champion, remembered one of the greatest moments of his career: the day he was forced to finish the same opponent twice at a UFC event.

The black-belt under Carlson Gracie was defending his middleweght belt against Matt Lindland in 2002, at UFC 37. Early in the bout, Bustamante took Lindland down and applied his favorite armbar, but the referee John McCarthy interrupted the action upon thinking he saw a tap-out. Yet Lindland had not tapped, so he protested. So McCarthy resumed the fight, and after containing his mind’s demons, Bustamante pulled another submission — a guillotine — in round 3.

To the reporter Carlos Eduardo “Cobrinha,” our correspondent in Portugal, Bustamante admitted: “When Big John made that mistake, I wanted to quit. Luckily, the Octagon’s door was locked, and for that reason alone I didn’t open it and leave.”

Indeed, the idea of quitting is always knocking on our door. And on many great athletes’ too.

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, before being considered the greatest player in the NBA, felt like giving up on basketball. In his school in North Carolina, a young Mike heard that he was fired from the team for the following year. He was one of the shortest players and wasn’t making the best impression.

Upset upon arriving home, he heard from his parents, James and Delores, the decisive advice: use your vacation to improve your skills. Michael did not let go of the ball during that summer vacation, and returned to the team. (The story is told in the documentary The Last Dance, available on Netflix.)

Another legend who once thought the dream was out of reach was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Before leading squads to championships of São Paulo, Brazil and the world, the King of Football felt the taste of defeat. In a final between his Santos and Jabaquara, in the under-16 tournament, an inexperienced Pelé shot a penalty kick over the bar, costing his team the top spot.

The next morning, around 6:30, Pelé woke up with a swollen face, still devastated, and wanted to leave the club, which was also his literal home. Suitcase in hand, he was stopped by an employee named Sabuzinho. “When he understood what I wanted to do, Sabuzinho taught me an important lesson. Everybody makes mistakes once in a while, he said; the secret is to learn from them, rather than give up because of them.”

Is your life tougher than usual due to the pandemic? Draw inspiration from your idols, listen to the Sabuzinhos of the world, and don’t quit.

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